Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Holy Blood

by Charles Covington


Human cloning tends to upset a lot of people. Charles Covington courts the maximum controversy in The Holy Blood by suggesting what would happen if someone tried to clone Jesus.

It begins with a scene from Bruges in 1482, where we witness the Holy Blood of the title being brought out in a futile attempt to heal Mary of Burgundy of her fatal wounds. This is the sacred relic supposed to contain the blood of Jesus Christ.

The blurb on the back of the book suggests that this is some kind of science fiction thriller, but the science will require some heavy-duty suspension of disbelief. The chances of successfully cloning from cells that have been around for hundreds of years is remote, so there's no fear of this actually happening.

In 2003 at Keer University, Wallace Keer is planning to get hold of the Holy Blood and test its authenticity. Covington makes his readers sit through a couple of lectures on Christianity by way of an introduction, and the anti-religious bias is not subtle. The author is clearly on his soapbox, and he spends a while there before getting down to business. Too long is spent introducing the characters, some of whom play a relatively minor part, and telling us about their families, hobbies and favourite screen savers before much happens.

This book focuses on the events leading up to the attempted creation of a cloned baby, rather than what might take place after one is cloned. Central to the plot is the punningly-named Gene Graham, a university professor whose work involves experiments with DNA and fertility. He backs Wallace's plan to get hold of the Holy Blood. However, about half-way through the book he makes a barely credible radical change of personality, from nice guy to irritating egocentric git. He is not the most engaging or believable of characters.

As with all big secrets, it's hard to keep an attempt to clone the Second Coming under wraps. Thanks to the activities of a couple of hackers the internet trail leads various religious investigators and extremists to Keer University. After a slow start the pace improves as Gene attempts to carry out the cloning without being discovered, and other people work on figuring out what is really taking place. Sinister and shifty priests and Islamic fundamentalists, each with their own agenda, start poking their noses into university business.

Although the author mentions that several hundred attempts were made before the single successful cloning that led to Dolly the sheep, there's little acknowledgement of how DNA would deteriorate over time, making successful cloning nearly impossible. If you let this technical detail pass, it's a fairly variable story about deception, self-deception and religious politicking. When Charles Covington can resist the temptation to rant about the church he is not a bad writer at all. Unfortunately this premise doesn't get the treatment it deserves because this is a book in need of some serious editing. Covington's ideas show promise and he could be worth looking out for in future, but this time it doesn't really work.

Book Details

Year: 2002

Categories: Books

  Science fiction

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson